Are you getting the Zzzzzzzzzzzz’s you need?

When your sleep schedule is disrupted and you don’t get the amount of sleep you need to function properly, you will instantly experience a drop in productivity and mental processing. If this sleep deprivation continues, you might experience something like this:

In case you can’t read my handwriting:
Lethargy and a decrease of energy leads to a loss of will power, which leads to poor food choices, which leads to stopping or reducing your daily exercise, which causes clutter to pile up at home and the office, which ultimately leads to complete disorganization.

In addition to tanking productivity, fatigue causes high blood pressure, reduced reaction times, a weakened immune system, and a slew of other nasty things that put one’s health in danger.

If you’re looking to be more productive at work and continue to have energy even after you get home in the evenings, sleep is a key component to making this happen. When you’re well rested, you’re also more likely to exercise and eat right, which help to give you more energy.

We each need different amounts of sleep to function at our best — I need nine hours of sleep, but my husband doesn’t require much more than seven — and these needs can change over time. Keep a sleep journal to learn how much sleep your body requires. Additionally, once you have the energy to unclutter and organize your space, your bedroom can be a great place to start. The less clutter in this room will improve your quality of sleep each night, giving you more energy to tackle other areas of your home and office.

37 Comments for “Are you getting the Zzzzzzzzzzzz’s you need?”

  1. posted by dejunky on

    I think keeping a journal is a good ide, helps you see what your sleep patters are, gonna give it a go…

  2. posted by Asha - 13 Years Later on

    Oh Erin – I’m so glad to hear someone else admit that they need 9 hours of sleep a night. I know from past experience that I’m a whole different, happier, person when I’ve slept nine hours, but it’s so hard to manage to get that much, especially when my husband, like yours, is Mr. Cheerful on seven hours! The other challenge to getting enough sleep, which I know many parents face, is that the only quiet time you get in the day is after the kids go to bed, so it’s extremely tempting to stay up. I’d love to hear how you, or other readers, get past that stumbling block.

  3. posted by Sue on

    I sometimes want to kick people who say they do fine on 5-6 hours of sleep and wonder why the heck I go to bed so early.

    Most of them don’t look like they’re doing fine. Most of them look exhausted every day. Any I can’t understand why they look down at me for sleeping more.

    I need about 8 hours, maybe a bit more. But I have problems falling asleep, so I rarely actually get 8 hours. That chart look familiar, although my deterioration happens in a slightly different order. The clutter starts first, poor food choices and reduction in exercise is at the end. If I get that far into sleep deprivation I’m in trouble.

  4. posted by Christine on

    Absolutely true. I’m trying to accept the fact that I’m a “grown-up” and need to start acting like one. Often, I like to stay up a bit b/c I need some downtime after the kids go to bed. Next thing I know it’s midnight. The few times I made a real effort to get to bed at 10-1030pm, I was still tired of course (can’t make up for years of missed sleep in a couple of nights), but when I fell back to my usual habits, I realized how horrible things were. It makes me do less with my kids b/c I’m too tired, less around the house, eat more poorly (too tired to make good food, run errands to get good groceries, etc).

    Sometimes my excuse is that I need to get stuff done and can’t do it with the kids (which is true sometimes), but staying up late (except for specific deadlines) doesn’t do anything at all for me.

  5. posted by L. on

    Totally agree. Like Asha and Christine, I have a tough time balancing my own need for some personal time with getting enough sleep. I’m a night owl by nature, so it’s very easy for me to stay up too late.

    I especially agree with Christine that, while it can also be tempting to stay up to catch up on work or chores, more often than not the quality of my work suffers, or it takes me much longer to accomplish than it should.

    Unfortunately I experience a vicious cycle effect–when I am overtired my decision-making suffers, so it becomes easier to stay up late again and again.

    In the later hours I try to examine whether I *really* want to do what I’m about to do, and especially note whether I feel “too tired” to do certain things–if so, I’m probably too tired to do anything, really, and should go to bed. I also stay far, far away from the computer because otherwise it’s easy to surf late into the evening.

  6. posted by Sarah S on

    For me, clutter is a good sign. The only time I can tidy at home is when my kid is asleep, so if I’m choosing to sleep, I’m choosing not to clean up clutter.

  7. posted by Ellen Delap on

    Love this post! Sleep is so basic and so important. AND so hard for people. Thanks for reminding everyone about this!

  8. posted by Melanie on

    Erin, that chart explains exactly why I fall into disorganization. It is way too tempting to stay up after the kids go to bed. My solution- at least once a week I give myself permission to “waste” an evening for my mental health. I’ve learned to recognize the signs of exhaustion like wandering aimlessly and guilt ridden from office to kitchen to laundry room meaning to start a task but accomplishing zero. Other nights i force myself to do what needs to be done to make the next day easier.

  9. posted by Melanie on

    Sleep studies show that most people sleep in approximately 90 minute cycles. If you allow your body to get complete sleep cycles (whether 1 or 6) you will feel much more rested than if you force your body to wake up in the middle of a cycle.

    That means if you need to wake up at 6:00, you should go to sleep at either 4:30, 3:00, 1:30, 12:00, 10:30, or 9:00; and then allow yourself to naturally wake-up at 6:00 (instead of having the alarm go off).

    When I started applying this fact it changed my life. Try it.

  10. posted by irishbell on

    Melanie, thanks for that little tidbit,I’ll have to give it a try. With school starting soon we’ll all have to start better sleep patterns in my house.
    I need a good solid 7-8 hrs to feel my best, with no wake ups during the night.

  11. posted by M on

    Wish I could force myself to get 9 hours. Seems like the most I can manage is 8 hours, and I know I need more.

  12. posted by Kay Chase on

    I’ve come to the (perhaps obvious) conclusion that the caffeine I drink in the afternoons when I feel “foggy” because I didn’t sleep well the night before is a cause and not a solution to my sleep issues. Ditto on the nightcaps.

  13. posted by Christine on

    I’ve found what also helps is a BRIEF list of things i want to accomplish. Stuff I HAVE to do on any given day versus “it would be nice if…” Otherwise, I OFTEN and EASILY get distracted by the “it would be nice if” list and find myself staying up late to get things done I have to do (just like when I used to procrastinate in high school and college).

    The have-to-do list includes things that will make my next day easier, even if it’s just mental. E.g. I need to have a tidy sink. The last thing I want to see when my kids wake me up is a sink full of dishes when I have a ton of stuff to do first thing in the morning AND now I’ve still got a sink full of dishes to work on.

    Then if I’ve gotten the minimum have to list done, I have permission to do nothing/get some sleep or get a little done on the it would be nice list.

  14. posted by cheska on

    very interesting post. will try to record my sleeping pattern to see how much sleep do I normally get.

  15. Profile photo of

    posted by camellia tree on

    I am also a 9+ hr/night sleeper, and tend to be tired a lot. Just wanted to note that iron supplements have helped me tremendously with this. Apparently a lot of women of childbearing age suffer from low iron levels, and it causes fatigue.

  16. posted by Aaron on

    I need 8 to 9 hours a night. I live in an apartment. Enough said.

  17. Profile photo of

    posted by Claycat on

    I never get enough sleep. I’m sure that’s why I can’t get much done.

  18. posted by Allison on

    I’ve recently switched my schedule around to shower at night, and that has really helped me with not staying up too late after the baby goes to bed. I put him down, hop in the tub and get ready for bed. After that I finish up my last chores or perhaps have a little quiet time working on me projects. But having the shower and putting on my pj’s a little while before going to bed really seems to help my brain slow down and my body to realize that I’m tired, so I’ve been heading to bed earlier and feeling better as a result.

  19. posted by Melly on

    This is totally me right now, and has been for months, uuuuuuuuugh.

  20. posted by Just Breathe on

    This article addresses a long-time problem for me. I have read just about everything there is on the subject, and I have personal insight as to why it IS a problem for me in the first place…but I just never manage to solve it once and for all.

    On the rare occasions that I cycle into getting to bed earlier, so that I am not totally exhausted the next day – or need to sleep late enough to get enough sleep not to get sick (I have that “luxury.”), it never lasts long enough to make it my new “habit.” T “fan really gets hit” when I have an event that prevents that, and that often leads to a miserable cycle of insomnia.

    I attribute my sleep pattern disfunction to several factors:

    1. As many of you remarked, late evenings are a major time for mothers to get their work done. It is also a more or less “interruption free” time, when you can do something for yourself. (Also, I worked for a time as a retail store manager in a mall, and had to rotate evening closings.)

    2. I have been a “Night Owl” all my life. My best friend from junior high days is also a “Night Owl.” I will receive e-mails from her marked 5:30 A.M.! (And she hasn’t been to bed yet!)

    3. This is more than a little embarrassing, because both my “kids” have Master’s Degrees (one in Psychology!), so I am not a “spring chicken.” But here goes – I am aware of another issue, which I feel strongly affects my sleep cycles.

    My parents were sticklers for rigid bedtimes, even in high school. I remember rolling my hair in the dark and reading books under the covers with a flashlight when I was a teenager.

    I lived with my parents for about a year, when my husband was overseas in a war zone. During that year, I was either pregnant or had a baby. My parents forbade the television being on past 10:30 P.M.

    There – I said it! At 60 years of age, I am still rebelling against my parents’ inflexible rules! How ridiculous!

  21. posted by Just Breathe on

    Sorry – First post went before I made the font large enough to proof.

    This article addresses a long-time problem for me. I have read just about everything there is on the subject, and I have personal insight as to why it IS a problem for me in the first place…but I just never manage to solve it once and for all.

    On the rare occasions that I cycle into getting to bed earlier, so that I am not totally exhausted the next day – or need to sleep late enough to get enough sleep not to get sick (I have that “luxury.”), it never lasts long enough to make it my new “habit.” The “fan really gets hit” when I have an event that prevents that, and that often leads to a miserable cycle of insomnia.

    I attribute my sleep pattern dysfunction to several factors:

    1. As many of you remarked, late evenings are a major time for mothers to get their work done. It is also a more or less “interruption free” time, when you can do something for yourself. (Also, I worked for a time as a retail store manager in a mall, and had to rotate evening closings.)

    2. I have been a “Night Owl” all my life. My best friend from junior high days is also a “Night Owl.” I will receive e-mails from her marked 5:30 A.M.! (And she hasn’t been to bed yet!)

    3. This is more than a little embarrassing, because both my “kids” have Master’s Degrees (one in Psychology!), so I am not a “spring chicken.” But here goes – I am aware of another issue, which I feel strongly affects my sleep cycles.

    My parents were sticklers for rigid bedtimes, even in high school. I remember rolling my hair in the dark and reading books under the covers with a flashlight when I was a teenager.

    I lived with my parents for about a year, when my husband was overseas in a war zone. During that year, I was either pregnant or had a baby. My parents forbade the television being on past 10:30 P.M.

    There – I said it! At 60 years of age, I am still rebelling against my parents’ inflexible rules! How ridiculous!

  22. posted by Just Breathe on

    One of the “slew of other nasty things that put one’s health in danger” is increased cortisol production, because not getting enough sleep is a stress on the body.

    The extra cortisol release, in addition to elevating the blood pressure (and all that entails), causes increased inflammation throughout the body, and the release of extra fat-storage hormones, which can lead to weight gain.

    Also, the extra cortisol can cause insomnia – thereby perpetuating the vicious cycle.

  23. posted by Tiffany on

    I’m definitely an 8 hour average person, fluctuating between 7 and 9 hours depending on what’s going on in my life at the time. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I have to be pretty militant about getting enough sleep. I fall asleep pretty easily and am not super sensitive to sleep *habit* disruptions as long as I’m getting enough actual sleep. So I have to watch that.

  24. posted by Tina on

    I keep saying all of this at work over and over again….my place of employment routinely works us 12 hour shifts (5-6 day work week) and it is so very difficult to get proper rest. Your list totally describes what lack of sleep leads to.

  25. Profile photo of

    posted by Another Deb on

    I have a hard time sleeping because I am nervous about not having my schoolwork done and cannot bear to be standing in front of a class unprepared.(and I never feel prepared enough!) The irony is that my brain is mush at the end of the day and I cannot force a thought no matter how long I sit there.

    I have discovered as I get older that I am LOTS fresher if I give myself permission to sleep at a reasonable hour even if the work is not done. Then I wake up at 4 AM and work an hour or so. I can get more done in that fresh hour than I can in four tired evening hours. As you sleep things get processed and I truly believe that some of the problems sort themselves out.

    Unfortunately, my husband stays up working on his classwork until 3 or 4 many nights and I am tossing and turning because he’s not there in the bed. Anyone else have trouble sleeping when the spouse stays up very late? It’s the devil trying to get him up and out of the house two or three hours later. We carpool and I get jittery because in order for my day to go smoothly, I need to arrive at work about the time he’s just loading his stuff for the drive.

  26. posted by Lee on

    I read an article this past week about bad habits that could get you in trouble at work. One was “falling asleep at work”. Duh! That does look bad. Her “solution” was to find more interesting work. I think she’s out of touch.

    A large percentage of the workforce has major sleep debt from not getting enough sleep. Many causes, but I think downsizing and adding responsibilities to the ones who are left and need to stay later or take work home leaves less time to sleep. And the stress from this can interfere with sleep. When you’re tired you don’t eat as well, as junk food and especially caeffine from soft drinks that keep you awake at work can work against you when you need to sleep. When you’re tired, you’re not as effecient and careful and may spend more time doing a project or correcting mistakes.

    My husband and I are trying to be firm about leaving an event. It’s fun to stay, but it’s not worth our poor performance the next day.

    Another Deb, a white noise machine might help you sleep. As for getting out of the house on time, let him know that if he’s not ready, you’ll leave without him. That’s a reasonable boundary to set. He doesn’t have the right to make you late each day. Having his things laid out the night before may help him get ready more easily and efficiently, rather than having to take the time to search for the things he needs. Counting back from the time you leave can let him see how much time he needs for each activity (breakfast, shower, etc.) so he knows what time he needs to start in the morning. It’s his choice of how he handles his nights and mornings and his choices lead to him choosing to be on time or late. He doesn’t have a right for his choices to bring you down.

  27. posted by Hilde on

    I wish I had a handwritung like you!

  28. Profile photo of

    posted by Another Deb on

    Thanks, Lee. I do a lot of those strategies. The white noise machine would help if it was that kind of issue, I think the stress of knowing that the morning will be difficult is what keeps me from sleeping well. Yes, I drive myself some of the time. Thanks for your help.

    It’s hard to be over 50 and not have that elastic brain that can recover from late nights as well as it used to.

  29. posted by Karen on

    I am SO glad to hear about others with the same “staying up too late b/c it’s the only ‘me’ time” issue. My boys are teens so it’s not like I have to be with them all the time. But, they’re still underfoot and still disruptive, especially with someone like me, who is more than likely ADHD.

    One thing that used to work was that the kids had to be in their rooms at a certain time. We can’t make them sleep, but they can be quiet and not bother me. They don’t go to bed until 10 or 11 some nights… often just wandering around the kitchen, etc. I don’t have a quiet place to work, so am in the middle of everything. They also know I’m easily distracted, so they use that (or try to). I wonder if I could still say “goodnight” at 8:30 or so and just pretend they’re in bed after that! I stay up way too late, am not productive in that time at all, and even worse the next day. A terribly destructive spiral.

    Unlike Another Deb, I sleep MUCH better when my husband isn’t in the bed.

  30. Profile photo of

    posted by Claycat on

    Just Breathe, I have many of the same problems as you, and I am also a 60 year old rebel. We are our own worst enemies!

  31. posted by Christine on

    I am familiar w/that thing about the sleep cycles being 90 min. Problem is that I get awakened at random times (infant, kids have a nightmare, etc).

    I used to have a problem with the anxiety of not finishing things and having those thoughts sometimes keeping me up despite being tired. I also decided to just get up a little earlier (which isn’t hard since I often hear my husband getting ready for work) to work on those things. Sometimes I will also prepare a list of things I need to get to in the morning/next day so I can reassure myself that I won’t forget them later. (If I’m really having trouble letting go, I write it down in my cell phone/organizer so I can say i won’t forget it.)

    And finally, I’ve done the self talk now enough times that I can sometimes just remind myself “hey, nothing’s going to get solved now. You’re already in bed. Sleep now and work on it first thing in the morning.”

    We also sometimes use a nice rain CD to get sleeping, but I don’t run it throughout the night for white noise b/c I need to hear if the baby suddenly wakes up.

  32. posted by Mletta on

    Enjoyed the post, for many reasons.

    It’s still amazing to me how so many people continue to act as if needing sleep is a sign of weakness (The always bragging that she only needs four hours or less a night Martha Stewart, for one!).

    Emphasizing the health and productivity issues related to sleep via the simple drawing is terrific.

    I think people should post something like this in offices and homes for ongoing reminders!

    I’ve had sleep problems for years now so I can attest to how one’s overall health is affected by lack of sleep. (I’m with you. 9 hours is what I need but can never get.) Not to mention attitude, enthusiasm, etc.

    it never ceases to amaze me how businesses push people to work such long hours that they get little to no sleep. And then they wonder why they have problems down the line with products, services and/or processes!

    Commonsense tells you that mistakes increase when you are tired. (If only the medical profession would once and for all address this.) And some of those mistakes (like driving when tired or operating on a person when fatigued) can literally kill.

    We have a “house” rule: We never discuss anything when one or more of us is wiped out. In fact, we remind ourselves that when you are tired, just about anything and anyone WILL get on your nerves. We also do not allow ourselves to make any major decisions about anything. There is a reason sleep-deprivation is a torture technique.

    Knowing the health connection, one wonders why sleep continues to be so devalued in our society.

    And as for not having enough time to, when it comes to work, yes, that’s often not in our control. But we do have choices in our “free” time. (Excluding new parents here!)

    Interestingly, the people I know who make sleep a priority are among the most delightful to be around and also the most productive! They are also calm and stable and rarely lose their temper or get crazy or overly anxious.

    We do have a limited amount of life-time. It’s true, and I think that scares some people. They are afraid to sleep “too” much because they are afraid of missing something.

    But you rarely really enjoy life when you are fatigued and lacking sleep.

    I really feel for business travelers who often change time zones and are still expected to perform 100%.

    And the parents of babies: Let’s hope you can survive and then get back to some form of normalcy. Parents need sleep even more than many others.

    I often think that lots of child abuse comes from overworked, fatigued people just losing it. (No excuse, mind you. Just observing.)

  33. posted by Just Breathe on

    Claycat: “Just Breathe, I have many of the same problems as you, and I am also a 60 year old rebel. We are our own worst enemies!”

    Indeed we are, Claycat. Indeed we are.

    Just wondering, are you a potter or another type of artist? I also believe the tendency frequently accompanies creative personalities.

  34. posted by Shalin on

    So true – what a great flowchart to identify the path/trend :)
    –S

  35. posted by brooke @ claremont road on

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who needs 9 hours of sleep to be happy! It’s an annoying but unchangeable characteristic of mine. How do you make it work with a little one in your home? I’m scared of being a completely sleep-deprived monster when we have kids.

  36. posted by Marcia on

    Erin, Thank you for addressing this. You have hit it right on the nose. I am a member of the Narcolepsy Network, and this is something we have discussed before in our forums and at our annual conferences. Sleep deprivation can be the beginning of a downward spiral for several area’s of life, but as far as the disorganization aspect of it you did a wonderful job explaining it. Sleep is not something most would have thought of, but it is relevant.
    Thanks Again!

  37. posted by Jen on

    I really enjoyed reading your article. It’s so true. I work 12 hour shifts. Like most nurses after the stress from a regular shift I toss and turn all night then get up to do it all again. When I do get a day off, I spend it barely getting the things done I have to (dishes, laundry, etc). There is no energy for anything extra. I know that if I could just sleep better, I could get some of these projects done. I’ve tried it all, sleep machine, a fan for background noise, even taking Tylenol pm. It doesn’t make any difference. I’m still up many times all night long. If anyone finds the magic cure out there please let me know. I would be forever grateful. My family would love having me with more energy and patience.

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